We all know that our parents are our first teachers. What we learn from them, we secure deep into our very selves and take that knowledge into the vast world. Our parents shape our fundamental understanding of every bit of the world around us and every situation we will encounter down the road. I can understand that, now that I’m a parent, more than I ever have before. I often consider: what do I want my children to take away from this day, or this experience, or this life.
While tutoring recently, it resonated with me just how much our home life shapes us into who we are. A student of mine simply could not discuss certain thematic topics of a novel with her parents. Her parents were busy with work, and didn’t take much interest in learning what this student was learning. I can relate. Life is busy. But I could see how much richer this student’s life could be if his parents would discuss deeper life issues with him — maybe not around the dinner table, because tennis, gymnastics, hockey, volleyball, and soccer can get in the way. But maybe in the car while travelling from place to place. Maybe in the kitchen while doing the dishes and cleaning up for the night. Maybe even while brushing your teeth in the morning. A minute of valuable conversation can go a long way.
This made me wonder: what do we talk to each other about anymore? I find myself so busy on my phone setting up play dates, working out uniform orders, registering for activities at various centres with various groups of friends, answering emails as room parent, getting back to all my friends’ messages to ensure our social calendar is filled up adequately, making sure my son gets on the same soccer team as all of his friends. I’m doing this all for my kids and my family, but how am I being present for them? Yes, all those things I listed are important to do, but looking them in the eye and explaining an important fact of life or sitting down with them and telling them a story they can learn from, or cuddling in bed before bedtime and sharing a piece of history with them. This. This is arguably more important.
I had a friend in university who talked about how she and her parents played Shakespeare trivia routinely at dinner while she was in high school. That was shocking information to me! What I know about Shakespeare, on the other hand, is self-taught or I learned from my teachers in school. I’m pretty sure that’s the norm for most students. My parents were busy with work and running a busy household; they didn’t have time to discuss the higher matters of literature over dinner. My dad loves history, however, and he would be able to talk anyone’s ear off about that. I would sit and listen for three hours straight while he taught me a little bit about everything he knew. I wish I had been smarter and soaked it up a bit more. Thankfully, though, I was able to soak up this: how to think, how to reflect, and how to believe.
What will I teach my kids? What will you teach yours?